The Prophetic Tradition: The Challenge of Islam is an enlightening set of lectures given by Norman O. Brown during the 1980s, exploring a wide-ranging array of topics concerning Islam. Brown reveals the overlooked relationship between Islam and early Christianity, exploring Islam’s relation to, and revision of, the Christian tradition, the literary innovation of the Qu’ran, the nature of revolutionary and political Islam, and the vision of a world civilization.
Throughout these lectures, which are remarkably pertinent today, Brown seeks to educate the reader on misunderstood areas of Islam, including the split between the Sunni and Shi’ite sects and Islam’s exemplification of the broad themes of art and imagination in human life. The author’s world-historical perspective of religion and tradition gives readers a crucial alternative to the divisive “clash of civilizations” view that paints Islam as at odds with the West. He exposes the unifying strands between Islam and early Judeo-Christian doctrine, showing that Islam is in fact a genuine part of “Western” tradition, and more importantly, part of a global tradition that embraces us all.